Navy’s Tejas fighter revs for take-off - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 26 February 2012

Navy’s Tejas fighter revs for take-off

The Naval LCA at its Oscars-like rollout last July. It is likely to fly next month and the navy has ordered 8 Limited Series Production fighters

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Feb 12

The Indian Navy has signalled strong support to the naval version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), even before the indigenous fighter makes its first flight next month. In New Delhi, on Wednesday, the defence ministry’s apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) sanctioned the building of 8 Naval LCA aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

“The 8 fighters will be a mix of single-seat fighters and twin-seat trainers. The money for these has also been allocated,” says a senior MoD official who was at the DAC meeting.

The Rs 3,650 crore Naval LCA programme was sanctioned in March 2003. Two prototypes are almost complete, the first a twin-seat trainer and the second a single-seat fighter. The 8 fighters sanctioned on Wednesday are “Limited Series Production” or LSP fighters. These will be used for flight-testing, a painstaking process that could last two years or more. Once flight-testing is completed, HAL will establish a full-scale production line.

The Naval LCA is a crucial cog in the navy’s expansion and, therefore, in India’s increasingly visible maritime strategy. It is designed to fly from an aircraft carrier, a floating airfield that can project Indian power across the oceans. India has already bought Russian MiG-29K medium fighters to equip the INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Gorshkov) an aircraft carrier acquired from Russia. But another two (and possibly three) indigenous Vikrant-class aircraft carriers being built at Cochin Shipyard Ltd will field the Naval LCA, along with a medium fighter.

With the first of these, INS Vikrant, at an advanced stage of construction in Kochi, the navy is keen that development of the Naval LCA proceeds alongside. Earlier this month, the normally soft-spoken navy chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, publicly criticised the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA oversees the LCA programme) for placing the Naval LCA programme on the back burner, while focusing on the air force version of the Tejas.

The admiral’s words have goaded HAL into action. Business Standard has been told that the Naval LCA will take to the air in March, a landmark event for the navy.

“The Naval LCA will definitely fly in March. We are doing ground runs and starting low-speed taxi trials, in which the fighter rolls on the runway under its own power. Then we will do some high-speed taxi trials, in which the fighter will accelerate to take-off speed; but when its nose lifts off the ground, we will slow down without actually taking off. Only after that will the first flight actually take place,” says PV Deshmukh, HAL’s officiating CMD.

The Rs 10,397 crore air force Tejas project has obtained initial operational clearance (IOC), and will soon join the IAF’s fleet. But the Naval Tejas presents additional design challenges, such as being able to take off from an aircraft carrier’s ski-jump after accelerating for just 200 metres. Even more challenging are repeated carrier deck landings, in which a hook on the aircraft snags on an “arrestor cable” on the deck, forcing the aircraft to a standstill in just 90 metres. These landings, in which the fighter slams into the carrier deck at more than 7 metres per second, are often described as “controlled crashes.”

The navy and ADA will extensively test the Naval LCA on land before venturing onto an aircraft carrier at sea. A Shore-Based Test Facility (SBTF) has been created in Goa, which replicates the dimensions and conditions of a carrier deck, including the arrestor and gear that brings the aircraft to a quick halt; and the optical landing system that allows the pilot to “aim” his fighter at the arrestor wire spread out on the carrier deck. After extensive SBTF testing, the Naval LCA will face the crucial challenge of landing and taking off from an actual aircraft carrier.

The navy’s two prototypes and eight LSP fighters will be powered by General Electric GE F-404 engines. Meanwhile, ADA has selected the more advanced and powerful GE F-414 engine for the LCA Mark II. This engine will also power future Naval LCAs. With 15% more thrust, the GE F-414 will be useful in taking off from an aircraft carrier deck.


  1. What about using the naval version of the rafale ? Would they be suitable for the new carriers being built ? Also they can project power better being more capable jets.

  2. Thanks Ajai Sir hope they meet this "next month" deadline this time. Btw whats news on LSP7's first test flight ?

  3. Its a good beginning. The Navy needs these as the MiG-29K fighters are also reportedly giving some problems. The Navy is unlikely to face very sophisticated threats in the near future. They were and are after all flying the Harrier which is not exactly modern. Navy ordering eight LCAs will be good for the LCA programme.

  4. kabotar ja ja ja

    kabotar ja ja ja

    arre yaar ab to ud ja re panchi


    no offence to anybody, but it has taken too long


    joydeep Ghosh

  5. "which replicates the dimensions and conditions of a carrier deck"..maybe you should have put that as ideal carrier deck ...none of the pitching and rolling due to the seas :D..

    PS: all in good humour

  6. @Ajai sir

    a question regarding the SBTF, which will mimick aircraft carrier deck.

    Most important part of carrier flyoff and landing are tipping deck manuevors, can these be expected from the SBTF to any degree


    Joydeep Ghosh

  7. Even I would be tempted to think that the Rafale engine should now be the obvious chose for the LCA. In fact I personally thought that one of the reasons the AF went in for the Rafale. Also if I remember right, the LCA was at some stage meant to be the offset for the MMRCA ( when the story started many years ago). Actually going for our passion for non- standardization and the need to keep so many countries happy, we could go fpr the Euro Fighters engine...

  8. Till 2025 we will keep hearing talk of runway and taxi trials , then the flight trials, then avionics...year end, HAL/NAL DRDO etc will arm twist so that the air force /navy inducts a few of these...then will start real live testing...whatever is inducted will any way be a technology surpassed by our adversaries.....the only real food it will give is to media,blogs for its continuous non -flight victory !!!
    In short the same L.C.A history..oops LCA History!!!, i goofed up there...the ongoing continuos LCA drama which can already make it to history books! and has left the air force crippled and given the overworked Mig 21 a bad name

  9. The Naval LCA was displayed around a year back and for the past year, all i have been hearing is that it will fly "next month". If it was not ready, what was the point of that tamasha?

    While I admire the Navy's patience, I wonder what the folks who are developing this plane have to say for themselves? What do they write in their annual appraisals? Isn't there any accountability in the system? How do they face their colleagues/superiors?

    If this happened in the company where I work, people would have been fired without a second thought, but then i work in a private company. More than that, much before this stage-I would have lost face in front of my colleagues and insulted/belittled by my superiors.

    We have to earn our own bread-a concept foreign to Government employees.


  10. why LSP with f-404's....damn it...ppl at hal listen to me...jump directly to will save time as well as money...Anyways best of luck...Safe landing...!!!

  11. It is going to be a real good news. Later these LSP can be put to better purposes.

  12. its like a tamasha...SP, LSP, DSP, SSP..CSP....all useless p's ...where r real jets that can fly for real..even if they have foreign engine, avionics, radar , landing gear, ejection seat, etc. etc. DRDO has proved is excellence at being being inept at almost everything, DRDO just developed tin can of LCA, everything else if Phoren made in it..and even after that they r not able to make good tin cans..oops plastic cans in this case...and I guess this MK-2 tamasha is to save their faces as they cannot put mk-1 in air on time so to save face this mk-2 drama...and may be after tat they will do mk-3 and then amca..and none of them actually flying...all gud for static display...why not bring drdo chief in fron of media and make him answer all d questions...??why he scot free...

  13. Bashing HAL, ADA, etc is the right thing to do for their inefficency, mismanagement and for blowing their own trumpets long before any of their products see the light of day.They broadcast to the whole world they are at the cusp of a big technology breakthrough a decade or so before they even formulate any R&D on the said technology. While nations especially private sector companies keep even their thoughts close to their heart to avoid espionage from competitors, we have PSUs shooting off their diarrhoea through their uncontrollable mouth.

    It is time the MOD gags the verbiage from these incompetents and order them to deliver on time or to look for jobs elsewhere.

    Having said that let us not forget that our Armed Forces should not ask for the moon every time they come across some glossy brochures of future weapons being developed by well established industrial nations.

    We just do not have a strong defence industrial base. Neither do we have the luxury to splurge billions on high-tech weapons because we are NOT YET in the league of nations like the USA or China. We are only slightly better off than the third world countries in terms of infrastructure and poverty.

    We have the brain and manpower but not the quality management inherent in all successful projects. The sense of urgency is not there. Until and unless the GOI and MOD realizes the dire need of the armed forces in the face of a likely two pronged attack by our enemies and ropes in the private sector to fast-track acquisition sorely needed by the armed forces, we will not only lose more of our territory, sovereignty, honour and pride as a nation.

    The complacency of the babus and technocrats may yet contribute to another drubbing by the bellicose Chinese. The 1962 episode may still happen in the near future, no thanks to the GOI which is still in the Chini-Hindi bhai-bhai delusion.

  14. Its great News if Naval Tejas shall fly in March !

    It shall be a very historic moment for the whole nation, akin to the one when the very first LCA TD-1 flew on Jan 4, 2001.

    Col. Shukla, is it possible for NDTV to capture this historic moment live ? It will not only be a great morale booster but it will also whitewash some negativity that floats around in some newspapers and blogs.

  15. I wonder whatever happened to GTRE's Kaveri engine ... What do the folks at GTRE do all day long, anyway?

  16. Hi Ajay,

    I think expecting Kaveri to power lca will takes ages and willnot help us much. we need to plan rafale way ... twin engine.. even if low thrust, kaveri can easily makeup and enhance from there.

    1)risk of failure for single engine,cant open up fast..

    2) Even if someday ,lca comes,its will be compared with twin engine fighters.

    infact rafale engines are so low thrust ,they increasing only now.

    3) Naval LCA shud be twin engine from the prototypes too..or mk2 nlca.. this route will surely help. airforce doesnot have to wait for twin engine for long time. benifits of single engine nlca are less.. so navy can wait for twin engine. while buying from abroad.. kaveri engine can be mated to twin engine lca and tested simultaneously.

    if this makes sense,pls can you consolidate and write a article on this

    4) if not possible ,they shuld make a ucav of single engined lca prototype.. replace kaveri engine and test rapidly.. help reduce risk for pilot n program as well as help n speed up any later engines once radar n automatic landing are possible


  17. in singapur airshow ADA/HAL display LCA oops LOSE COMMON AIR TOY,ha ha ha
    why HAL west time reopen maruti a/c and re engine 30 year se halka fulka jet bana raha hi tab to AMCA to 2060 me pura hoga

  18. Yes.Hal-ADA have slipped on time. But IAF has been posting new requirements.The challenges are not small. But with great energy and persistence, the young Hal men and women have overcome the technological deficit.Once Tejas get operatinalised, Tejas MK2 will complete the technology acceptance and will serve well into the future. AMCA will enjoy the fruits of the labour that have spun over the last decade. Good Luck Hal-ADA !!!


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